Becker County will be entering into two multi-county, One Watershed, One Plan agreements in an effort to streamline water conservancy projects along the waterways.
After more than 40 minutes of debate, the Becker County Board of Commissioners adopted two comprehensive One Watershed, One Plan initiatives for the Buffalo-Red River, and Wild Rice River, during their meeting Tuesday, Feb. 16 by 3-to-2 votes.
Commissioner Ben Grimsley became the deciding third vote for the measures after removing some confusing language from the resolutions and wanting Becker County to remain participants in the new watershed program boards.
"The fact that it's definitely going to happen and I want to have a delegate on that board, I support it," said Grimsley, during the meeting.
The One Watershed, One Plan proposals will eliminate county regulatory barriers along the waterways and allow water table projects more flexibility in determining focus areas for the watershed, which previously may have been across multiple counties with different ordinances.
"If we're not at the table, this plan still goes forward with Buffalo-Red River and Wild Rice," said Commissioner Barry Nelson. "But, if we're not there, we don't have as much influence on where that money would go."
Commissioner Richard Vareberg opposed the measures and said he didn't want see the new watershed boards trump local, and county controls, over the waterways.
"I want the control of our water in Becker County and not handed to somebody who won't listen to me, or hear me," said Vareberg.
He said the 650-acre property near his own property where he grew up was decimated once public funds were used to drain the ponds in the area and construct control levees to manage the water flow. He also told the other commissioners that the largest apple tree in Becker County, along with other oak trees, were bulldozed during the renovations.
"That is why I have trouble giving up my rights to the people in Minneapolis and engineers," said Vareberg. "I understand that these guys here are telling us that we're going to get something better, but when I see big government come in and destroy this property, and this is five miles from here, anybody can go look at this."
Vareberg was informed by Becker County Soil and Water Conservation District officials at the meeting that the land he was highlighting was U.S. Fish and Wildlife land and will not be affected by the new One Watershed proposal.
Also at the meeting, Phil Hanson of Lakeview Township told the commissioners of Lakeview's, and the five other townships surrounding Detroit Lakes, intent to craft their own subdivision ordinances and have the county administer them in opposition to Detroit Lakes' two-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction.
"I figured we should come before the commission before we spent too much time and effort going forward to make sure that (the Board of Commissioners) are on-board with the direction that we're heading," said Hanson. "."
Currently, Detroit Lakes must sign off on lot splits smaller than 5 acres within two miles outside of the city limits. City officials have previously said the city's extraterritorial subdivision controls are necessary for future city planning and controlling the cost-benefits of extended the city's sewer and water systems to the surrounding area.
"If the city is willing to work on it with you, what is the purpose of having a contract with the county?" said Grimsley, District 2 commissioner, which also includes Detroit Lakes. "If you don't want to do it yourself, why can't you just broker a deal with the city that works for you? They've been doing it."
Grimsley added that a lawsuit would look like the county is taking powers away from the city.
"We're taking the powers that are truly ours, and we're taking them back," said Hanson. "We feel we are better representatives of people in that township."
Commissioners also informed the townships that they would have to adopt one subdivision policy for all of the townships in the two-mile extraterritorial zone because the county was not going to be responsible for administering different plans for each township.
Detroit Lakes city officials were present at the meeting, but did not make any on-the-record statements during the meeting.
After the meeting, city officials began conversing with township officials in the courthouse hallway, which ended abruptly when township officials told city staff they weren't happy with the my-way-or-the-highway approach to the negotiations and wanted to take back powers they believe should've been theirs to begin with.
The commissioners also began the eminent domain procedures against property owners along West Lake Drive in Detroit Lakes. The procedure was a first step in the process to secure the land along the West Lake Drive road reconstruction project.